By Jim Whelan
Most Knicks fans are hoping that Derrick Rose is available in next month’s NBA Draft. The Memphis guard led the Tigers to the championship game. Enter Tyreke Evans to fill the void left by Rose’s departure after his freshman year. Evans had his pick of most of the best colleges in the country.
Lance Stephenson from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn is the next guard sensation to come out of New York. Local schools like LIU and St. Francis of New York are not on his short or long list of schools. Trying to find the diamonds in the rough, third year coach Brian Nash knows the likelyhood that Stephenson will commit to the Brooklyn school is highly unlikely, but that does not stop Nash from his passion for the game or the job that he loves.
St. Francis of New York is one of the 334 Division I programs in the country. Terriers coach Brian Nash is trying to get his team to qualify for the NCAA Tournament to earn the right to play a Memphis, or a Kansas or a Duke. This is feat that the program hasn’t accomplished since Nash’s father was a player in 1960. “We are a one-bid conference, there is no doubt about that,” said the young coach. St. Francis, located in Brooklyn, is a member of the Northeast Conference.
Nash’s coaching apprenticeship started out as a player commuting a half-hour every day with his dad to Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn from Floral Park on Long Island. Brian Nash’s dad Ray coached at Bishop Ford for 37 years and today is the president of the school. “It was tough coming from Long Island and leaving all from friends in Floral Park” said Nash. After a while, Nash got acclimated to the Brooklyn school and made friends on and off the court.
As a player and the coach’s son, Brian Nash always felt like he had to prove his playing time on the court. “Some people felt that the minutes were given to me,” said Nash.
Nash was third in scoring the New York City Catholic League as a senior. Brian’s dad Ray grew up in Brooklyn and went onto to play St. Francis in Brooklyn. Ray Nash got a job at Bishop Ford High school and remained there to this day. Both of his sons Pete and Brian went to Bishop Ford High school and played for their dad. “I wanted my sons to get exposure to the real world and the diversity at Bishop Ford offered that” said the elder Nash.
When his playing days were done at Bishop Ford, Nash knew he wanted to play in college. “I wanted to live the dream and play division one basketball like most players and I was thinking of going to prep school.” He got an offer from DII Keene State and Nash’s father Ray thought it would be a good opportunity for his son. “Ninety nine point nine percent of college players never make it to the NBA, if you have an opportunity to play in college and get an education, I told Brian to take it,” said the elder Nash.
Keene State gave Nash an opportunity to play instead of going to prep school and sitting on the bench at a DI school. Nash also credits his college roommate from Queens, Jimmy Ferry, who helped in getting Nash to go to Keene State. Nash excelled at the D II School and was the team’s captain his junior and senior years. After graduation, Nash looked to play overseas and returned to Bishop Ford to help his dad as a volunteer coach.
Nash quickly gave up the dream of playing overseas and concentrated solely on coaching and looked to the college ranks for a paid assistant position. Working summer camps, Nash was offered a graduate assistant position with DII Sacred Heart University. The one-year tenure got his feet wet and led to St. Bonaventure University. There Nash started to draw a salary as a paid assistant.
“I broke in at the restricted earning spot which was $12,000 a year working 20 hours a day,” said the new coach. The salary that he did receive did not match the experience he earned under then-coach Jim Baron. “Jim treated you he same and taught you how to run a program from the media to academics,” Nash said. The six years that Nash spent at St. Bonaventure were “invaluable,” according to Nash.
After six years, Nash started looking elsewhere to sow his college oats. “I knew I had to learn different philosophies and different coaching styles,” Nash said. He went to the Ukraine with the Big East/ Atlantic 10 All Star team and met Louis Orr.
“I took a liking to Louis right away, his coaching style and he was an NBA guy,” said Nash. Louis Orr was a longtime Knick player and was breaking into the coaching game. Orr got the Siena College job and asked Nash to be part of his staff. After a 20-11 season and 11 months, Orr left Siena to take the Seton Hall job and took Nash with him.
At Seton Hall, Nash learned the other side of college coaching than when he was at Sacred Heart. “Chartered flights and nice hotels and the pressure to win,” said Nash. Like every stop along his coaching apprenticeship brought a new experience, Orr was taken over a Pirate program in shambles. The team had some inside turmoil that the coaches inherited and the team was split. The Pirates lost to Duke at the buzzer and the season had potential but the season was as Nash described it “a train wreck.” Orr and Nash righted the ship in South Orange and took the Pirates to the second round of the 2004 NCAA tournament with a win over Arizona.
In 2005, Nash left South Orange to return back to Brooklyn and took over the head coaching job at St, Francis in Brooklyn. Located in Brooklyn, St. Francis is a commuter school. “We get a lot of local kids that played at junior college and want to return home… it is a tough recruiting situation” said the Terrier head coach. St. Francis has a good mix of junior college players and some high school players coming in. The goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
The success has come in spurts for the coach. Relying on his experience, Nash looks to get a group of players that will lead Nash into the post season. There is not the pressure to get the blue chip recruits and the alumni are not barking at the president’s door for the coach’s removal. Nash has won on every level of the coaching apprenticeship. Now as a journeyman it is only a matter of time until the next goal is achieved.
Jim Whelan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!